I’ve mentioned several times that I don’t like the impending Stephen Strasburg shutdown. I think that the Nationals, especially after they realized they had a playoff contender on their hands, needed to manage his workload in such a way that he could pitch into the postseason.
That said, one cannot be blind to pitcher injuries and workload in making the pitch Strasburg case. And one guy who appears to be really, really blind to it is former Braves and Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone.
Mazzone was on the radio in San Francisco yesterday, and he told a story about how back in the Braves glory years, his young pitchers used to carry a big load. Like Steve Avery for instance:
Let me tell you something we had pitchers when they were young in 1991 okay…Steve Avery and John Smoltz and Pete Smith and Tom Glavine were all kids. They took us to the 7th game of the World Series and they all had great careers ... I remember in 1993 when we trying to catch the Giants and we were out in San Francisco and we were 7 and half games out or 8…whatever it was in late July. We are trying to catch him and Steve Avery who was 22 years old at the time already was an MVP of the NLCS and said, ‘Leo we got them now.’ I said, ‘Oh I am glad you said we got them now. Last I looked we were about 7 or 8 out.’ He said, ‘No. John Burkett and Bill Swift are talking about how they pitched 150 innings and they might be getting a little tired. We don’t get going until we got to 150.’ ”
Steve Avery pitched 223 innings that year, which was his age 23 season. The year before he pitched 233. When he was 21 he pitched 210. In the minors and majors in the two years before that he pitched 170 or so each season. On top of that, as Mazzone noted, he pitched a lot in the postseason: 29 innings in 1991, 20 innings in 1992 and 13 in 1993.
And at the end of that 1993 season he got injured and was never truly healthy or durable again.
I don’t think Strasburg is on the Steve Avery path. The Nationals have been careful with him and, even if you disagree with the strategy they’re employing now, they are trying to continue to be careful with him. But man, if you’re going to go after what they’re doing, you probably shouldn’t be bringing up Steve freakin’ Avery as your go-to example.